Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. As a result of the success of this film and the first
film, there’s a generation of cinema-goers who have come
to see you as a purveyor of wholesome family entertainment, which
is not how you began. It’s a big switch around, isn’t
A. Yes it is. It’s actually my second big switch-around,
because I started making home movies just as a device to explore
the magic of the camera. When my father showed me home movies,
when I was a small boy, I was so fascinated with it, I had to
get into it. So I really began by just being interested in the
technical aspects of film. The idea you capture reality and replay
it, or cut it out of sequence, which was really a cool thing to
do, and see time replayed in a different sequential order.
That fascinated me for years, and then I developed a love for
lenses and camera movement, what effect did that have on the audience?
I started thinking about the audience that watches the pictures.
Then all through High School and college I began making comedies.
That’s what I would make, actually, light comedies, we would
show the kids, and charge admission, a quarter, or 25 cents, and
we printed tickets, and we’d pull all these quarters together
and would have the money to buy more film stock for the next one.
So I only made comedies, even through college, and then my partner,
my room-mate at the time, said, ‘look, we’ve been
evicted from our apartment, do you want to try and find another
apartment, or do you want to try and strike out and make your
first feature film?’
I said, ‘well, I don’t know if we’re going to
be able to raise the money’, and he assured me that we would,
but ‘here’s the thing, Sam, I’ve done some research
and it seems like the only way we could make a movie from the
cheap amount of money we could get, that will play in the theatres,
is if we make a cheap horror movie’. This time was before
independent cinema had art films, or little love stories, or accepted
independent movies like that. The only independents, in 1978,
that I was aware of were these horror films, so I said I didn’t
know a thing about horror movies. In fact, I don’t like
them, because they frighten me!
I would never actually go and see them because I was frightened
So my friend said, ‘let’s go see what they are, and
you tell me if you think you could make one as good as that’.
So I agreed, we went to the movies, and saw Halloween, and he
asked ‘could I do that?’, and I said, ‘I don’t
know, that was really, really good. I don’t know if I could
make a movie that well’.
But then I learned later that this was a uniquely fine horror
film, and I started to see other movies at the local drive-in,
and I started to understand how they were put together, and what
makes a suspense sequence work. So I made my first horror movie,
called The Evil Dead, where no one would touch that movie, except
here in London, a small company called Palace Pictures, distributed
it, and made a big success out of it for a time, until it was
But that success meant I was off making movies, but I was making
horror films, because that’s what I knew how to do and it
seemed to be acceptable. So I made Evil Dead 2, and another dark
picture, called Dark-Man, and Evil Dead 3.
But I really started on horror films because I was told that was
the only thing we could make that would sell. But as I grew older,
I became, I developed friendships, I matured as a human being,
I got married and had children, and my interests changed, and
I became more interested in the stories of people, and who we
are, what makes us what we are, and film is the medium for that.
So I’m still interested in the technical aspects of making
film, fascinated by them, in fact, but more as a device to support
the stories that I want to tell now. So that’s really why
I’m making these types of films now.
Plus, these films, I start to think about what I really like when
I’m in the theatre. And what I enjoy so much is when there
is something in a movie that uplifts me; I love that, and it’s
so rare. I do feel it at times, so I’m trying to put those
elements, and story points, and characters, with their movements
in these films that have that effect on the audience. I really
like that. But I don’t know what the future holds, my interests
Q. Congratulations on the Box Office. There are a lot
of nudge-nudge moments in the film, especially the moment when
Spider-Man hurts his back, and there is a wonderful line where
he says, ‘ouch, my back!’ Tell us a bit about that
if you can?
A. Well, the film had a number of writers, some credited,
and some not. At this time, I was writing with my brother, and
we wanted to show that Peter’s character, after being affected
by what his aunt had said, he tries to overcome his psychological
problems with his powers.
And he’s running, and he leaps off this roof, and we wanted
to show that the powers have still failed; he’s almost got
them back. So my brother said, how about we have him say, ‘I’m
back, I’m back!’ And then he’ll fall, and slam
down on the car and say, ‘my back, my back’!
At first I thought that was really funny and then I said, "You
know Ivan, although I think it's funny, because he’s really
had some back problems, maybe we’d better not’; and
Ivan said, ‘not many people are going to know about that.
Those few people that do, it’ll be like an inside joke for
them, and for everyone else, they won’t be missing anything,
they’ll just appreciate if it’s funny’. So I
said, yeah, but I’m not sure Tobey would want to do it’.
But I mentioned it to Tobey, and he said, ‘yeah, that’s
ok, let them laugh at me, it’s ok’. He was a good
sport about it.
Q. You must have been hugely
relieved that he did get better and was able to play the part.
With that in mind, has it changed your perception of what physical
demands number three might be for him? Has it changed the way
you look at what you might put Tobey through?
A. You’re right. I’ve already worked out
the story, but I haven’t thought about that til now, actually!
Now I’m worried about it! I probably should have been thinking
about it. But what I will say is that he was so completely ok
on the second one, it kind of became a moot point.
Q. The iconic shot of Spider-Man firing things, can you
be sure that when that was designed, it’s not an offensive
gesture in some cultures?
A. Do you know something, I don’t know about that
[laughs]. I hope not. I hope they understand the spirit of it.
Q. And yet the ironies seem to cross cultures. I mean,
for instance, the fact that most people don’t like spiders,
and yet here we have a hero who is called Spider-Man, and who
has spider-like abilities?
A. I guess anthropomorphism has always been an element
in ancient religions. It’s one of the oldest ideas of gods
back then, but I guess it could be translated to heroes, too.
But I think what’s even older, or more universal, is the
idea that there is a power in all of us, and a side to all of
us, if we were to tap into it, that we can do good, and grow beyond
our limitations, and when faced with overwhelming darkness, we
all have the ability to reach down inside of ourselves and pull
out some courage and dignity, and hopefully overcome those obstacles.
Those stories of heroes, from the Greek myths on down, have always
been with us, and I think that’s what this falls into; these
super-hero stories, or stories of heroes in general. They show
us how we’re supposed to be; they remind us of how we’re
supposed to be, because we really already know. And when they
remind us correctly, and we recognise the truth in them, they
work for us, and they’re powerful, we say, ‘that’s
right, I’m capable of that too. I can find some amount of
courage in my life, and I can change and grow as a person’.
That’s what the advantage of these stories are.
Q. Is there any sense that Darkman was sort of a prototype
for these films? Was it a rehearsal for you, of this sort of Spider-Man
A. In retrospect, I think so. At the time, I was just
making the film the best that I could. But in retrospect, I had
learned a lot, in making that film, and I think it probably helped
to enable me to make these pictures, specifically this second
one, because this movie was really hard to make. I had to pull
upon every piece of film-making ability that I had learned over
the 32 years of making films, both non-professional and professional.
I had to pull upon everything I had learned about story, in my
years in television [the two years I spent there, learning about
episode after episode, storyline after storyline], and I had to
pull upon everything I had learned from the great actors I had
worked with, like during A Simple Plan, Billy Bob Thornton and
Bill Paxton, and when I worked with Russell Crowe and Gene Hackman
(The Quick and the Dead). I learned a lot of different things,
in different situations, but this time I needed it all, I felt.
Same with my effects experience. Had I not know what I know, I
never could have survived this picture, or disciplined myself
to be storyboarding, how to work with artists, or delegate authority.
Everything came into play this time; this was a really hard one…
Q. So at what point did you decide that you wanted to
do Spider-Man 3?
A. When I was editing Spider-Man 2, I realised that I
really am just figuring out who these characters are, and it’s
taken me a long time. And I think that’s the process of
directing. I never know when the movie starts who the characters
are, I know what we’ve written, and I know who I’ve
cast, but I only really find it in moments, unexpected moments,
when the actor comes up with some revelation, or when I see a
scene performed and I get some deeper understanding of what it’s
really about. It comes in little bits and pieces.
So around the editing of this picture, I really felt that I had
a really good sense of who this fella was, finally. And there
was still so much more to know about him. And that I was naturally
curious about what was to become of him and his love; if they
could survive this next phase that they are about to enter. So
I sort of said, that’s the best reason to direct the picture;
you can’t have any better combination for a director, both
some knowledge of who they are, and a curiosity for what they